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Women-only gyms work out in small-town India

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Single-sex gyms have become empowering cocoons of privacy and safety where women can bare their batwings and jiggle bosoms without worrying about the male gaze

None of her writerly friends know what Marathi author Manisha Kulkarni looks like between 6.30am and 8.30am every morning. The secrecy is deliberate. Five months ago when a bout of thyroid problems coupled with depression had driven the 52-year-old to a nearby gym, the Nashik-based writer went in her regular invisibility cloak – an oversized salwar kameez. Gym owner Sophia Andrade-Kapadia soon persuaded her to try on track pants for the first time. Since then, right after her early morning diet of two Marie biscuits and tea, Kulkarni has been stuffing fresh track pants in her gym bag. However, she still sticks to her salwar kameez for the trudge to the gym and back.

The privacy is especially important in the small world of Nashik where gymming women are a rarity. Kulkarni joined Shambhavi, a women-only gym in Nashik, because it sounded both curious and safe. Here, while cycling with mothers who show up wearing yoga pants under burqas and stretching with wives who hit the treadmill as an escape from domestic routine, Kulkarni has not only dropped four kilos so far but also collected a close friend and confidante in Kapadia.

This impromptu social network is partly what draws hordes of small-town women to enroll in women-only gyms, raising the demand for such gyms in Tier II and Tier III cities. Pink Fitness, considered India’s largest all-women fitness chain, has 29 centres in major cities in south India with the latest opening in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli last week.

Vivafit, a chain of 10 women-only gyms across India is inundated with requests to open more centres. “Almost 70% of our members have never been to a gym before,” says Manisha Ahlawat of Vivafit. Contours, a Bengaluru-based single-sex fitness chain, boasts franchisees in cities such as Vijayawada and Pathankot, where it is not uncommon to find mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law working out in night suits and grunting in synchrony over shoulder presses.

The lure of these estrogen-filled sanctuaries isn’t hard to understand. Unlike cold (literally) unisex gyms, these single-sex gyms become empowering cocoons of privacy and safety where women even those from conservative families -feel free to bare their batwings in sleeveless tops.

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News and Image Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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The team behind Woman At Work magazine, the first-of-its-kind professional magazine and digital platform for talented women at work in India. The team brings forth fresh perspectives, insights, and tips for developing a professional woman’s career along with some fun stuff on board such as gadgets, books, and auto reviews. They believe that when you work hard, you need to play harder!

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